Nine years after volcanic eruption, football still suffers | Readings for 2 December 2006

The island’s cricket ground, part of a recreation center servicing much of Montserrat’s population, lies in the “exclusion zone.” (normalfornaarch | Flickrâ„¢)

Plymouth, Montserrat | Again bottom of the FIFA rankings, the island finds itself where it was four years ago when it was selected for participation in the alternative World Cup final between global football’s two worst teams. Domestic football officials gripe to BBC reporter Richard Fleming about the 2,000-meter elevation and pre-match (accidental) food poisoning that helped lead to a 0–4 loss in Bhutan in 2002. (See our interview with the director of the documentary, The Other Final, that resulted from the one-off competition.)

But infrastructure remains a challenge in the British crown colony nine years after the powerful eruption of the Soufrií¨re Hills Volcano, which covered the capital, Plymouth, in ash and made much of the island unfit for habitation. The population has been reduced to 5,000, and funding from the British government—some £300 million since the volcanic crisis began—has targeted health, education, transport and so on, with little remaining for sport. (BBC World Football, 25 Nov 06; mp3 available on request)

Intrigue | Arsenal stadium has links to Russian mystery

Police are researching the movements of several Russians who visited London on Nov 1 for an Arsenal match versus CSKA Moscow. The “rogue agents,” who took in the Champions League fixture at Emirates Stadium, are believed to have been involved in the poisoning of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko. A UK resident and critic of the Kremlin, Litvinenko died Nov 23 at a London hospital.

Representatives of Arsenal Football Club declined comment to columnist Paul Kelso regarding reports that police had visited the ground as part of their investigation. The stadium does not appear on a list of places where radiation has been found. Litvinenko was poisoned with a radioactive substance, polonium 210. (Guardian, 1 Dec 06)

“Maestro” by Robert White, a 3.5-meter-high painting of a Subbuteo man and one of the entrants in the Lowry competition.

England | They think the Art Prize is over … it is now

Ben Kelly, 32, has claimed the Football Art Prize and £15,000 for his painting “The Final Whistle,” depicting a celebration after Botafogo beat champions Pontepreta in Rio de Janeiro last summer (Manchester Evening News, 1 Dec 06). Eighty entries were short-listed for the prize out of more than 800 submissions.

Lindsay Brooks, head of galleries at the Lowry, Salford Quays, Manchester, tells the Independent that, given the number of art works depicting supporters, “In this year’s competition the fan has become the hero” (Ian Herbert, “Football as Art at the Lowry Gallery,” 1 Dec 06).

Hoyzer

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